Minicon 30 Science Guest of Honr: Robert Forward

Dr. Robert L. Forward is a science consultant, writer, and futurist specializing in studies of exotic physical phenomena and future space exploration with an emphasis on advanced space propulsion concepts. Dr. Forward obtained his B.S. in Physics from University of Maryland in 1954, M.S. in Applied Physics from UCLA in 1958, and Ph.D. in Gravitational Physics from University of Maryland in 1965. For his thesis he built and operated the world's first bar antenna for the detection of gravitational radiation. The antenna is now at the Smithsonian museum.

Dr. Forward has 38 years of experience in advanced space propulsion, experimental general relativity, gravitational and inertial sensors, low noise electronics, and space sciences. For 31 years, from 1956 until 1987, Dr. Forward worked at the Hughes Aircraft Company Research Laboratories in Malibu, California, in positions of increasing responsibility, culminating with the position of Senior Scientist on the Director's staff. During that time he built and operated the world's first laser interferometer gravitational radiation detector, invented the rotating gravitational mass sensor, published over 70 technical publications, and was awarded 18 patents. He left Hughes in 1987 in order to spend more time writing and consulting under his own company, Forward Unlimited.

From 1983 to the present, Dr. Forward has had a series of contracts from the Department of Defense and NASA to explore the forefront of physics and engineering in order to find new energy sources that could produce breakthroughs in space power and propulsion. The first contract, Alternate Propulsion Energy Sources, was to conduct an intense technical assessment of the latest concepts in science and engineering that show promise of leading to a major advance in available energy sources for space power and propulsion in the 21st Century. The study resulted in the uncovering of 64 propulsion energy concepts, of which 28 were well defined enough to be selected for preliminary technical assessment. Further study narrowed the field down to six concepts that had not been known before, or had been deemed unfeasible or too far off by advanced propulsion surveys. One of these was antiproton annihilation propulsion.

The second contract, Antiproton Annihilation Propulsion, was to determine the physical, engineering, and economic feasibility of antiproton annihilation propulsion. The conclusion of the study was that antiproton annihilation propulsion is feasible, but expensive. A 212-page final report, a journal publication, six papers at conferences and workshops, and a book, Mirror Matter: Pioneering Antimatter Physics, resulted from that effort. As a result of the study, the Air Force set up special programs to support antiproton annihilation propulsion research.

The third contract, Advanced Space Propulsion Study, continued to explore new propulsion concepts. The effort was to include an emphasis on the study of antiproton annihilation propulsion and to present approaches for promoting the scientific and technology issues of the concept. The contract resulted in five published papers. The Mirror Matter Newsletter was started in June 1986 with Dr. Robert L. Forward as editor. Each issue of the newsletter contained 1014 pages and was sent free to those with an interest in the scientific and technological applications of stored antimatter. The newsletter was published 36 times a year and was terminated in June 1990 with the 18th issue. This contract also resulted in the compilation of an extensive Antimatter Science and Technology Bibliography.

The fourth contract, 21st Century Space Propulsion Study, was a multi-year program running from August 1987 through May 1991. The effort called for Dr. Forward to continue monitoring the research at the forefront of physics and engineering to discover new technology and scientific phenomena that might have application to space propulsion, and based on these latest developments, propose space propulsion concepts. The study again included an emphasis on antimatter propulsion concepts. The contract resulted in a patent and five publications.

The fifth contract, Failsafe Multistrand Tethers for Space Propulsion, was an SBIR Phase I study with NASA/Marshall SFC that developed a failsafe multistrand tether design with a lifetime 500 times the lifetime of a single strand tether. This was followed by another SBIR Phase I contract Failsafe Multistrand Tether SEDS Technology Demonstration, which runs from 15 December 1994 through 15 June 1995.

Another present contract effort is a multi-year contract with JPL for an advanced propulsion research definition study to find new concepts for advanced space propulsion that would be suitable for further experimental or analytical study by JPL.

Dr. Forward is a recognized expert on future technology, especially exotic physics and future space travel. He has given invited, paid lectures to the Okayama Prefecture in Japan, the 1990 NASA/Lewis Vision 21 Workshop, and four National Space Society International Space Conferences. He has presented invited review papers on the feasibility of interstellar flight as part of the 1976 JPL Flyby Celebrations, the JPL Gossamer Spacecraft workshop, and the 1985 IAF Congress, and also an invited paper to the 1985 IAF Congress reviewing the entire US advanced space propulsion program. He was a visiting lecturer on advanced space propulsion at the 1993 summer session of the International Space University. In 1994 he was the Keynote Speaker at the Practical Robotic Interstellar Flight Conference.

Dr. Forward's extensive review and bibliography, A National Space Program for Interstellar Exploration is published in Future Space Programs 1975 of the House Subcommittee on Space Science and Applications. In 1990, he was invited by the AIAA to write the advanced space propulsion section of the special propulsion issue of Aeronautics and Astronautics. In 1993 he was asked to write the advanced space propulsion section of the US Air Force Academy-sponsored textbook on space propulsion. He is a regular contributor to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, which invited review articles, "Ships to the Stars" in the 1988 Yearbook, and "Antimatter" in the 1993 Yearbook.

In addition to 130 professional publications and patents, Dr. Forward has written 65 popular science articles for publications such as Omni, New Scientist, Encyclopaedia Britannica Yearbook, Science Digest, Focus, Analog, and Galaxy. His published works include two science fact books and ten hard science fiction novels, where the science is as accurate as possible. (see bibliography.)

Dr. Forward is a Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society, Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and a member of the American Physical Society, Sigma Xi, Sigma Pi Sigma, National Space Society, The Science-Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and the Author's Guild.

[Fiction] [Non-Fiction]

Bonus Guest: Martha Dodson Forward, co-author

Martha Dodson Forward obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of South Carolina in 1956 and took graduate courses at UCLA. Her primary literary output consists of letters to a wide circle of family and friends, some of whom save them assiduously with the fond and foolish hope of becoming wealthy from their publication after her demise.

David Dyer-Bennet <>
Last modified: Tue Jul 4 00:31:33 1995